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How to Conquer your Fears (and Become Unstoppable)

Subhajit Banerjee

May 20, 2024


Close your eyes.

Picture yourself on the roof of a 19-story building.

Imagine the floor, the edges, the water tanks, and the vents. Feel the cool breeze. See the clear sky. Hear the distant city sounds.

Now, walk to the roof’s edge. Stand on the boundary wall. Look down.

Can you see the smaller buildings, people going about their lives, and the moving vehicles?

Good. Now lift one leg and extend it forward…

Stop. Open your eyes.

Notice your pulse. Feel how your heart has quickened and your mouth has dried.

You just activated the concept of fear in your brain.

What is fear, really?

It might seem like an odd question. After all, we all know what it feels like to be scared.

Is it the emotion that sometimes paralyzes you or pushes you to escape danger?

Is it the collection of physical sensations—tightness in the chest, tense muscles, a racing heart, dry throat, and a sinking feeling in your stomach?

Is it the way you react—avoiding eye contact, tripping over your words, or running away?

Or is it something even more profound?

What is Fear?

Fear, like any other emotion, is a concept shaped by your experiences. It predicts and adjusts your body’s responses, helping you decide the best action to take.

Maybe you stand your ground. Or perhaps you run.

It’s your body and mind working together to keep you safe – to help you survive.

But what is it protecting you from?

Is it physical danger, like a tiger about to attack? Sure, that’s possible (though hopefully not while you’re reading this).

But most often, there’s no immediate physical threat.

The thought experiment above proved that.

It was your concept of fear that caused your brain to predict and modify your body’s state – preparing you to act (in this case, to step back from that imaginary ledge.)

For most, this happens automatically and unconsciously. They’re unaware of it, left only with a sense of dread.

And this dread is not just about the survival of the physical body.

It’s triggered by threats to any aspect of your identity (including being alive).

You fear losing your job because it threatens your identity as a provider.

You worry about extremist views because they threaten your identity as a Hindu, Christian, or Muslim.

You fear your child getting sick because it threatens your identity as a father.

I learned this interpretation of fear from Leo Gura. Since then, I’ve been reflecting on it, and it continues to resonate deeply.

Consider my own recurring fears—fear of not being enough, fear of abandonment, fear of losing control over my environment. Each is closely linked to the identities I’ve created for myself.

My fears stem from wondering what will happen if I lose that identity. They come from a belief that losing it means I’ll cease to exist.

And this fear is everywhere.

The unconscious mind doesn’t realize how pervasive fear is.

It pushes fear into the background. But it manifests as anger, anxiety, nervousness, and stress.

Look at each of these emotions closely and you’ll find a subtle hint of fear behind them.

I remember feeling anxious when I would wake up early, before my alarm, unable to fall back asleep.

I didn’t understand it. I thought something was wrong with me. I feared it was permanent.

But now that I understand the reasons and mechanisms behind it, I feel so grateful. The fear has now dissolved (more on how I achieved this later).

And this fear isn’t limited to individuals.

It resonates and amplifies across groups—in races, demographics, states, and even countries.

It’s a curse of being an intelligent species.

What Makes Fear So Painful?

Animals experience fear when there’s a clear and present danger.

However, they can’t imagine future dangers. They don’t worry about impending death—they lack the curse of imagination and foresight.

We are the only species known to have the sophistication to anticipate future dangers and plan for them.

But sometimes, we misuse this ability and shoot ourselves in the foot.

Our brains are so powerful that they can vividly recreate a dangerous scenario. Yet, they are so flawed that they can’t differentiate between actual danger and fabricated scenarios.

And the worst part? We aren’t even aware of this.

The scenarios our minds conjure may never occur. Or, if they do happen, they won’t be as bad as we imagined.

So why do we keep doing this?

The answer is simple. Those who keep expecting the worst do so because they’ve been hurt before. They never want to be caught off-guard again. So they imagine the worst-case scenario to prepare themselves – and hope that reality will be less painful.

But can anyone ever hope to control their future?

No matter how meticulously you plan or how optimistic you are, life will still surprise you.

So, why do you expect life to stop challenging you at some point?

Thinking that something is wrong when life is challenging is a misconception. And trying to prevent that and control everything is a delusion.

This delusion makes you feel helpless and fuels your fear.

What happens when you’re this deluded?

You either deny your fear or try to manipulate your way out of it. You avoid facing your fear and miss out on growth opportunities.

Fear is a poor survival strategy against anything that’s not an immediate threat.

Because fear perpetuates itself.

The more you avoid fear, the more frightened you become. You end up feeling like a victim, and your self-esteem plummets. You become more susceptible to the outcomes your fearful mind predicted.

Facing the truth frees you from fear.

I have an on-and-off fear of never being able to pursue coaching full-time.

I imagine staying reliant on my job as a project manager, working on others’ schedules, solving problems that don’t resonate with me, and being unable to pursue what truly fulfills me.

On weekdays, when I switch from my content creation and coaching to my project management role, it feels like tangible, physical pain.

In my weaker moments, I fear this will be my life until I no longer have the energy to pursue my goals. Until I become frail and die with regrets.

I used to feel helpless against this fear.

But now, I can bring awareness to this fear when it arises in my subconscious. I resist the urge to dissociate and distract myself.

I rise above it, ensuring it doesn’t make decisions for me.

And I return to pursuing my aspirational goals.

I wish the same for you (my readers and clients).

I want you to be the puppets of your fear no longer, allowing it to color your every decision.

I want to help you rise above your fears.

So that you can pursue what’s meaningful to you — in your work and relationships.

So that you can say what needs to be said, do what needs to be done, and take a stand where necessary.

When you can do that, you experience true happiness, joy, and peace of mind.

You thrive, rather than just survive against fear.

You begin to lead your best possible life.

If you’re someone who’s struggling to reach there, I might be your guy (Book a call here, and let’s figure that out.)

But if you’re not ready for that yet – read on…

How to Conquer Your Fears

Through experience and thought experiments, here are the methods I’ve found most effective against fear.

Some are tactical, others strategic, and a few require a lifetime of work.

I hope you’ll make good use of them.

Breathing Consciously

Fear makes you feel helpless as if you’ve lost control of your body and mind.

This is a natural reaction.

So, how do you regain control? Focus on what you can always command — your breath.

Breathing is a direct way to influence your body’s stress response that fear triggers.

Practice the physiological sigh — a double inhale followed by a long exhale ( repeat this sequence 20-25 times).

This signals your brain to slow your heart rate. It helps you regain control, turning the tables on fear.

Body Scanning

Next, focus on your body.

Find a safe, comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes.

Imagine your focus as a searchlight, like the one from Batman movies shining over Gotham.

Start at your toes and slowly move up to your head, scanning for any stress, tension, or discomfort.

Where do you feel it (in your neck, solar plexus, shoulders, stomach)? What does it feel like (queasiness, tightness, emptiness)? Lean into these sensations.

Rate your discomfort on a scale from 0 to 10.

Stay still for 5-10 mins. Lean into the discomfort. Notice your urge to flinch and flee. Don’t give in to that. Instead, open yourself up to that experience.

Now scan again. How would you rate your discomfort now? I bet it would be lower now.

I used this method to confront my morning anxiety. I started applying body scanning when I woke up in the wee hours.

As soon as I started opening myself up to that, and stopped trying to make it go away – the truth dawned on me.

I realized my fear stemmed from health concerns I thought were permanent. I assumed I would never ever wake up refreshed. I assumed I was doomed to be a zombie without mental clarity.

Learning about circadian rhythms and cortisol cycles showed me it was just my body priming me up for my day. It was assisting me in fulfilling my dreams and goals.

Gratitude then replaced my fear, and my normal sleep patterns returned quickly. Now, if I wake early, focusing on gratitude helps me fall back asleep.

This exercise will prove that you have more control over your body than you believe.

You will no longer feel helpless.

Being Present

The steps above help you regain control over your body from fear.

Now, let’s go further.

Fear does not exist in the present.

What do I mean by that?

Fear either pulls you back to past traumas or pushes you to worry about future ones. Your task is to stay in the present whenever fear tries to take you elsewhere.

This is challenging.

But don’t be discouraged if your mind wanders. Avoid self-judgment.

Your only job is to bring your mind back to the present as many times as it takes.

Stop giving in to the lies

When you try to bring your focus back to the present, you will encounter a challenging hurdle.

What is that, you ask?

It’s the lies your mind tells you.

It will tell you you’re helpless. It will tell you that you have no choice but to remain caught in a downward spiral. It will tell you that you don’t have an option to step out.

But don’t succumb to these lies.

Of course, it’s necessary to address situations as they arise in your life, and yes, planning and strategizing are essential (we’ll discuss this soon).

But let’s be honest — at this point, you’re not engaging in productive planning.

You have to realize that staying trapped in this spiral is not helping. It’s only making you more miserable.

This will help you step out of it.

Have faith in yourself that you’ll be okay with whatever comes next.

You will survive.

Because “you” are not just your body or your identity. You are pure consciousness. You are indestructible.

No harm will ever come to “you”.

(If you find this hard to believe now, I don’t blame you. But that doesn’t change the truth.)

Journal your macro and micro fears

Tactical solutions are effective, but relying solely on them will only take you so far.

To achieve permanent, long-term change, you need to adopt strategic measures.

And it all starts with awareness.

The best way to gain this awareness is through journaling.

Take a fresh sheet of paper and write down your macro and micro fears.

You’re likely aware of your macro fears – the big, bold fears that are too loud to remain unnoticed in the subconscious.

For instance, my own fears of not being good enough and fear of abandonment. Identify fears like these that color nearly all of your daily thoughts and actions.

If you’re struggling to pinpoint these, remember the most painful moments or periods in your life.

Most major fears are rooted in past experiences. You are projecting past pain into your future, and this will continue until you confront your past.

Micro fears, however, are more subtle — like morning dewdrops that appear and vanish swiftly, making them difficult to catch.

Yet, these micro fears hold real insights. Let me give you an example…

While I was working on this edition – my mom was admitted to a nursing home for a knee-replacement surgery. I was driving over the Maa flyover in Kolkata to visit her when I observed a micro fear. I thought about what would happen if my car broke down now in the middle of this flyover.

The flyover was 9.2 km long packed with traffic on both ends. A car malfunction here would leave me stranded with no way to call for help.

I visualized how I wouldn’t be able to reach the hospital and visit my mom. How I wouldn’t be able to return on time and pick up my son. How it would throw off my entire schedule.

This micro fear revealed my underlying value for control over my schedule and life.

Capture as many of these micro fears as you can (in your notes app or carry a pocket notebook if that’s your jam). Find the overlaps.

How are these fears linked to your identity? How do they influence your thoughts and actions?

This awareness will give you control over them. You will be able to feel them and let them go instead of acting out on them.

Think in solutions and decisions

Fear proliferates when you focus on problems. So, shift your focus to possible solutions.

This shift is subtle but significant.

Returning to my car breakdown fear, I reassured myself by recalling the recent maintenance and checks I had done.

I changed my tires recently, so there’s no blowout risk. The car was serviced recently and I got a few minor fixes done.

I remembered that the car battery was aging and needed replacement. I made a mental note to add it to my action items.

It reminded me that my mind wasn’t working against me. It’s trying to be helpful by presenting scenarios for me to address.

It’s up to me to make the decisions and act on them.

Given the choice, your brain would rather prefer to be the wise adviser instead of the commander.

But if you run away from fear, choose to stay unconscious, and refuse to make decisions – your brain has to step up as the decision-maker.

And then it drives you to unwise decisions through fear.

Acknowledge your brain’s efforts. Thank it for its vigilance. But also inform it when its suggestions aren’t helpful. This feedback helps your brain adjust and improve.

Focus on solutions. Acknowledge the fear but don’t let it deter you from making bold decisions.

Fear will lose its grip on you.

Expand your concept of “self”

We talked about how fear is linked to the loss or harm of “self.”

But what is that “self” really?

Who are you?

Are you the image that you see in the mirror? Or are you the one who looks?

That image can’t be you, as it changes over time.

Dig deep into the rabbit hole of this idea long enough, and you will realize that you are nothing but pure consciousness.

This consciousness, a mystery even to modern science, is part of the divine — something that transcends individual existence.

Embracing this idea, there is no distinction between self and others.

All beings are manifestations of the same divine consciousness, temporarily housed in separate “containers” that eventually return to their source.

This concept of “advaita” or non-duality, found in every major religion, says that all fears dissipate when the self extends to the infinite.

The greatest fear we face is the fear of our limitless potential, of losing our distinct identities.

But this dissolution of boundaries between self and others is inevitable, whether by choice in life or by default in death.

So why not choose to embrace this limitless potential now?

The more you’re able to do so, the more fearless you become.

This is a lifetime worth of work – but worth starting right away, won’t you agree?

 

Fear has its uses.

It protects your physical body from immediate danger.

But it’s a poor survival strategy for anything beyond that.

You no longer need to depend on it.

You don’t need to be helpless against it.

You don’t have to allow it to dictate your thoughts and actions.

Use the tactics and strategies above as and when required.

You will be able to rise above your fears and cultivate consciousness. You’ll start leaning on your principles and values to guide you.

And once you do that consistently – you will start getting glimpses of your true potential.

You will understand how powerful and limitless you really are.

You’ll realize that every limit you ever thought you had was imposed by fear.

You will start understanding the truth of the world.

And then you become unstoppable.